Maize farmer
Maize farmer

Six Comesa countries dealing in maize and products have agreed on mutual recognition of each other’s standards certificates to ease trading. (Net photo)

Six Comesa countries dealing in maize and products have agreed on mutual recognition of each other’s standards certificates to ease trading. (Net photo)

The Comesa Mutual Recognition Framework (C-MRF) that was agreed on in Kampala on December 17 will see Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe provide analytical results and recognition of certificates of analysis issued by laboratories of these participating countries.

The C-MRF for trade in maize and maize products is meant to facilitate greater flexibility where regulatory frameworks differ, reduce trading costs and lower business compliance costs through mutual recognition of product standards and conformity assessment procedures.

As such, the C-MRF will be a central instrument in driving deeper levels of regulatory policy co-ordination and integration between member states in Comesa.

To be domesticated and implemented in the member states through mutual recognition agreements (MRAs), the C-MRF will facilitate a seamless trans-regional market and pave the way for a functional Free Trade Area and Common Market.

Comesa Director of Agriculture and Industry Thierry Mutombo Kalonji said lack of mutual recognition of technical standards and conformity assessment [testing and certification] was a persistent non-tariff barrier.

“Comesa initiated the framework in recognition of the fact that regulatory barriers are sometimes a result of differing technical capacities in the public and private sector entities across the region,” he said.

Experts said without mutual recognition of standards and certificates of analysis, regulatory barriers persist, causing an unpredictable regulatory environment that comes at a high cost to traders and contributes to the growing informal trade, now estimated at over 80 per cent in some countries.

Countries with developed food control systems face difficulties trading with those with weak systems and hence staple foods crossing borders are subjected to conformity assessment procedures that come at a high cost to traders.

Indeed, across the region, the differences in quality assurance infrastructure and conformity assessment, including laboratory competence, often translate into regulatory barriers or non-tariff barriers and remain a major cause of high costs of trading, and one of the main reasons for low-intra Comesa trade.

As a case in point, in 2013, intra-Comesa trade was 7 per cent, compared with other regions such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) that recorded 25 per cent intra-regional trade.

Records indicate that informal cross-border trade or trade that goes unrecorded is estimated to be as high as 35 per cent.

The regional procurement officer of the UN World Food Programme in charge of East and Central Africa, Simon Denhere, said that the C-MRF will do away with NTBs as they will not be asking for any other documents.



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